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MIT has developed a new stamp-sized ultrasound sticker that can monitor internal organs for signs of disease (like organ failure) or the progression of solid tumors.

According to the study, the new sticky sensor is capable of sending sound waves through the skin and into the body, which then reflect off internal organs and return to the sticker. This sticker is an improved version of the original revealed in 2022, and can measure and track the pattern of reflected waves, which can be read as a signature of organ rigidity.

Xuanhe Zhao, professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and senior author of the paper, explains: “When some organs undergo disease, they can stiffen over time. With this wearable sticker, we can continuously monitor changes in rigidity over long [periods], which is crucially important for early diagnosis of internal organ failure.”

According to Interesting Engineering, the research team developed a sticker that can continuously monitor the stiffness of organs for 48 hours and is so sensitive that it can detect subtle changes that may indicate the progression of a disease. When tested, the sensor detected early signs of acute liver failure in rats, though it is yet to be tested on human subjects.

Second lead author Hsiao-Chuan Liu shares a possible use for the invention: “We imagine that, just after a liver or kidney transplant, we could adhere this sticker to a patient and observe how the rigidity of the organ changes over days. If there is an early diagnosis of acute liver failure, doctors can immediately take action instead of waiting until the condition becomes severe.”

The initial experiments testing the stiffness-sensing sticker were conducted on rats, after which the researchers used the data collected over a 48-period to identify clear and early indications of acute liver failure, which they later confirmed through tissue samples.

The researchers also intend to develop a more portable and self-contained sticker version by miniaturizing all the sticker’s electronics and processing to fit into a slightly larger patch. Once achieved, the researchers envision the sticker could be worn by patients at home to continuously monitor their health conditions over longer periods.